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Friday, December 20, 2013

Egg Drop Soup - Fast!

So last Wednesday... No, let me back up. Last Sunday, we attended a birthday party at Peter Piper Pizza, which is just a place you take your kids so they can run around while you get a headache. But there's also skee ball so it's got that going for it. Anyways, Alex had fun and we got to see friends, so that was fine and dandy.

Then, the Wednesday after, Todd came down with an absolutely horrendous cold. Thanks Peter Piper! Now, let me tell you, when this man gets sick, he is KO'd for approximately 48 hours and then he's fine. Just... Fine. He gets the aches and pains, the sore throat, the coughing. He gets to skip congestion because I guess he's God's gift to man, but I digress. This time, though... THIS TIME, man, he's been knocked over for, what, 9 days? Judging by his snoring this morning, I'm just going to go ahead and round that up to 10. A 10 day cold, AKA the flu.

He hasn't been this sick since the end of our honeymoon, when he got sick from smoking a cigar in our hotel room in Rome, head hanging out the window in the wintery evening, people gazing and just generally looking like a tourist on their last day in Rome. I DON'T WANT TO MISS A THING. The next day we were at Ostia Antica IN THE RAIN and he's running around like a puppy on chuck wagon day, hiding in old caves where cults gathered and checking out ancient public toilets with running water. Then the next day we're on a 10 hour flight and his sinuses just like, oh I don't know, explode or something. I'll never forget the angry red streaks down his face and throat, where he had tried in vain to rub the pressure out. Oh, that flight ran out of drinking water halfway through. GOOD TIMES.

SO ANYWAYS. That cold/flu was bad and this one has proved to be just as formidable. I pronounce that word en francais in my head whenever I use it. FOR-MI-DAHBL. I thought I was in the clear, too. He came down with it last Wednesday, and I didn't get the oh shit feeling until we woke up at 3:40am THIS Wednesday morning to Alex having a pee accident and I realized my throat was on fire and my limbs were filling with the pin-prickly aches of doom. Oh good. It's heee-eeere!

I was absolutely out on Wednesday, which also happened to be my mumblethirtyfourthmumble birthday. And, good mother that I am, since Todd had to do some work, I just set Alex up to watch Curious George all morning while I burrowed into a nest of blankets and pillows on the living room sofa marathoning episodes of Arrow which is good and bad and awesome and stupid and EVERYONE keeps landing in the hospital, it's great.

I sucked down ibuprofin and bowls of broth brought to you by Better Than Bouillon and that night, after Alexandra threw up three times and finally got put to bed after she was in the all clear zone, Todd made me my birthday dinner which was linguine with crab in spicy white wine sauce which was as delicious as it sounds, especially when you pair it with ginger ale. Then I writhed around in agony on his lap while he watched episodes of Breaking Bad.

Later at midnight Alex woke up with a 102 degree fever so we gave her medicine and all piled into bed so we could all writhe around in agony together because we are family. Thursday morning, I piled her into a nest of pillows and blankets to marathon Curious George which is good and bad and awesome and stupid and EVERYONE keeps trusting this goddamn monkey with shit like TRIPS TO THE GODDAMN MOON, it's great.

I wanted protein that morning (Alex had toast and apples, because hey vomit), but also knew that chicken broth was my best bet at recovery. So I did a lightning quick google search and found one of the simplest yet tastiest soup recipes in my life. And I wanted to share it with you! And also share my agony. My misery. My child's pain and suffering. Todd's servitude to his sick girls. But mostly, and I'm being completely honest here, my agony. My misery.

Here was my countercurse for yesterday's agony. Yesterday's misery.

Egg Drop Soup
serves two

4 cups chicken broth (I used Better Than Bouillon)
salt and pepper to taste
sesame oil (optional but you should do it)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
fresh scallions, sliced (I used chives)
soy sauce (optional but you should do it)

So just boil your broth. Once it's boiling, add the salt, pepper and few drops of sesame oil. Let boil another minute or so. Next, sloooowly pour in your eggs, stirring rapidly in a clockwise motion. Once they're in, ladle your soup into bowls and garnish with the scallions or chives. Add a few drops of soy sauce to deepen the flavor, and you're in like Flynn.

The recipe I found online suggested you could add a slurry of cornstartch to the broth before adding your eggs in order to thicken it. I contemplated doing so but ultimately did the original as is, and I'm glad I did. There's something refreshing about enjoying a soup with so few ingredients. And, hey there, if you use Better Than Bouillon, there's the added benefit of knowing that 8 oz of this soup has only 50 calories, give or take.

So, there's the reward for listening to me bitch about illness. SOUP.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Low-Carb Caprese Bites

I absolutely hate how blurry this photograph is, but I was in between making a pie and a soup for a luncheon and was in a hurry. It was the only one I took so this is all I have, but since we're so close to Christmas, the colors really are perfect for a light, healthy appetizer for a holiday party. Plus they're quick and easy to make, so long as you have nice, big basil leaves to use. I ran out and actually had to utilize a sloppier method of pinning two leaves per toothpick, so instead of the 24 I wanted to make, I settled for 18.

Low-Carb Caprese Bites
makes 24

1 tub mini mozzarella balls from Trader Joe's
1 1lb package Mini Pearl tomatoes from Trader Joe's
24 large, rinsed basil leaves
24 toothpicks (obviously)
1 tsp Balsamic vinegar
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

So, I'm sure this is pretty self-explanatory. Pierce the basil leaf, then the cheese, then the tomato, and the basil leaf again to make a cute little boat. Repeat 23 times. Add a little sprig or two of basil, you know, for flair. For pizzazz.

Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve. Mix your vinegar and oil well, then using a spoon, drizzle the dressing over your little basil boats. Presto!

These were really yummy and a welcome alternative to heavy cheeses or pates or dips you typically encounter this time of year. And I originally wanted to call them No-Carb, but since there is a WHOPPING .47g of carbohydrates in a cherry tomato, I didn't want to lie to my audience.

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Cold Night Snuggle.

Earlier this week, Alexandra fell asleep a couple of hours before bedtime. She had crawled into bed, tucked herself in and just, zzzzzz, was out like a light. So we decided to see if she would sleep the whole night through, and let her catch up on her sleep. Around 11pm when we went to bed we noticed she'd turned her light on and was awake. So we changed her into her jammies, red her a story and got her settled back down.

She seemed keen on it, but after completing my nightly toilette, I peeked in and she was wide awake, staring right at me. "I'm freezing," she said, despite being under two warm blankets, in a nightgown and jammie pants, and not knowing what "freezing" means (well maybe she did, since earlier that day I had instructed her she must put her pants and socks back on since her legs and feet were "freezing"). But let me tell you, I am a sucker for bedtime snuggles, and since she had fallen asleep at 6pm, and I had worked all day, I had had basically zero time with her.

"Wanna come to bed with us?" "Mm-hmm!!" and out of bed she scrambled, trotting ahead of me to climb into our big bed. And oh, how we burrowed. Oh, how we curled around each other, a big S and a little s on their sides, her head on my bicep and the covers to our chins. Todd came in soon after, another big S facing us, our heads bent together like sleepytime conspirators in our chilly bedroom.

The way her body nestles into mine will never get old, and neither will the realization that I am a provider of comfort for her, simply by existing. I remember how comforting it was to snuggle up with my mom in her bed, how being cradled in her arms was a security, a reminder that there was someone larger than me in my life to protect me, a huge force of love there just for me.

Feeling how Alex hunkers down, scooting back against me, eyes closing immediately despite having been asleep for five hours already, how she sort of mumbles and murmurs as she gets comfortable between the two pillars holding up her world, her parents, and knowing that she is at peace, she feels comfort and security, that she knows she can come to us, that our arms are open, and knowing all we have to do is love her, and be ourselves for her, is quite possibly the best feeling in the world. It's frought with responsibility, anxiety at times, and constant accountability, but all of that is such a small price to pay.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

French Onion Soup Gratinee

We finally, FINALLY, had weather to match the time of year this past weekend, so naturally my friends and I had a soup party and then the next day I made French onion soup. Yesterday I had some for lunch and Todd was like, MY GOD MAN, NO MORE SOUP and I was like, tough toodles, buddy, we're having another kind of soup on Tuesday.

Look, it's been over 90 degrees for about seven years here, so when it dipped into the fifties, my Dutch oven came out in all its glory, okay?

Anyways. I got this recipe off of All Recipes so I want to link you there in order to give credit where it's due, and to not seem like a lying, thieving asshole. But I will also lay out the ingredients and steps here for those who are like, MY GOD MAN, NO MORE LINKS

French Onion Soup Gratinee
serves four

4 tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
2 large red onions, halved and sliced thin
2 large yellow onions, halved and sliced thin
48 ounces chicken broth
14 ounces beef broth
1/2 cup red wine
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 sprigs fresh parsley
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
4 thick slices French baguette
8 slices Gruyere or Swiss
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
4 pinches paprika (I did not do this)

The woman on All Recipes was to the point so here are her directions that I followed to a T (aside from the paprika), and I rarely follow something to a T:

Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Stir in salt, red onions and sweet onions. Cook 35 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are caramelized and almost syrupy.

Mix chicken broth, beef broth, red wine and Worcestershire sauce into pot. Bundle the parsley, thyme, and bay leaf with twine and place in pot. Simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove and discard the herbs. Reduce the heat to low, mix in vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Cover and keep over low heat to stay hot while you prepare the bread.

Preheat oven broiler. Arrange bread slices on a baking sheet and broil 3 minutes, turning once, until well toasted on both sides. Remove from heat; do not turn off broiler.

Arrange 4 large oven safe bowls or crocks on a rimmed baking sheet. Fill each bowl 2/3 full with hot soup. Top each bowl with 1 slice toasted bread, 2 slice Gruyere cheese and 1/4 of the Asiago or mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle a little bit of paprika over the top of each one.

Broil 5 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown. As it softens, the cheese will cascade over the sides of the crock and form a beautifully melted crusty seal. Serve immediately!

Obligatory line from my favorite movie Clue: "And oh my, this soup's delicious, isn't it?"

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Unwinding Sigh.

I have always loved the word "sigh" because it's beautifully, romantically onomatopoeic. Sigh. You think of lovers sighing between kisses against each other's mouths, the luxurious sigh of want as you say goodnight to your date, leaning against the door as you lock it. There's the sigh before falling asleep, stretched out and comfortable, ready to chase dreams or let them come and surprise you, or the sigh after finishing a wonderful and satisfying novel (though for me that is frequently followed up with far more melancholic sighs as I try to find a book that is on par with the previous; we call that a book hangover). Sure, there are also sad sighs, exasperated sighs, lonely sighs.

When Todd and I visited Venice on our honeymoon, we visited the Palace of the Doge. It was all very impressive and intimidating (there were these boxes shaped like, if memory serves, demonic faces, and you could rat people out as spies or um, I don't know, anti-Doge people, by writing their names on paper and slipping it into the open maw of said demon), but the thing that struck me most was The Bridge of Sighs. It was a bridge crossing to the jail cells over a canal and the windows on the enclosed bridge offered the soon-to-be-prisoner a final look at glorious Venice. It would prompt a sigh. A sad, wistful sigh. Still a beautiful word isn't it?

I could talk about lovers or sorrow all day, but the sigh of which I just reminded myself was actually a very meditative one that I employ while swimming laps. It's been months since I've swum but there is this certain slow, steady, satisfied sigh sometimes I will make. Not like Henry VIII after a large meal or perhaps a beheading, but just a mellow exhalation through my throat and out my nose. I do this sigh after every turn while swimming laps, to steady my breathing as I propel forward underwater as long as possible to really gain as much speed and distance as possible before breaking the surface with my first stroke.

I love that sigh! I love getting reminders of it, getting reminders of the meditation that comes with swimming, even on a rainy fall day like today. Swimming is lovely for that, because if you want, you can completely lose yourself in it. Want to forget a crummy day? No problem. Focus on keeping your arm extended as you pop your face out for a breath, focus on twisting your torso, not kicking your feet, or counting your strokes to see if you can shave one or two off during your next length. And suddenly, despite thinking "These 40 laps are going to take forever," when you first slip into the cool water, you're on lap 25 and are so in the zone you're almost (I said almost) sad there's only 15 to go.

But you can also choose to let the technique switch to auto pilot if you'd like. You can reach the edge of the pool, tuck and twist and push off, give that long, soothing sigh, breathing under control, everything steady as she goes, and let your mind wander. You don't need an iPod to drift off if you want. You don't need any distractions to let your thoughts tumble around you in the swirl of bubbles and the blue water, just you, following the stripe of black tile on the bottom of the pool, and the motions and the water and your deep, unwinding sigh.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Teriyaki Salmon with Sriracha Cream Sauce

Oh yeah, it's as good as it looks, and then some. Todd basically went apeshit over this, and after the second bite was all "This one is a keeper." Which is fine by me, considering it was melt-in-your-mouth tender and juicy, had just enough spice for flavorful warmth without tipping into dangerous third-degree-burn territory, and also really, really easy.

Teriyaki Salmon with Sriracha Cream Sauce
serves two

1/4 cup brown sugar, packets
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (I had crystallized from Penzeys)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tbsp honey
1 cup water
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 6-8oz salmon fillets
1/4 cup mayo
1 tbsp sriracha

Whisk together the first six ingredients to make your teriyaki marinade, and pour into a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Make a slurry with the cornstarch and soy sauce. Mine had been opened before so it was refrigerated and therefore cold. Cold liquid works best with cornstarch so if your soy sauce is room temp, I recommend just using cold water.

Science, bitch!

Add the slurry to the marinade in the sauce pan and stir until somewhat thickened. Usually the easiest way to tell is how the simmering bubbles look. Trust me, you can tell.

Let this cool to room temperature. I poured mine into a pyrex and left it on the counter for like, 10 minutes or so. Not utter room temperature but close enough! Put your salmon in and let it marinate at least 30 minutes in the fridge.

Set oven for 400. Transfer marindae and salmon, the whole kit and kaboodle, into an 8x8 pyrex which has been treated with cooking spray. Bake until salmon flakes off easily, about 15-20 minutes.

While that's baking, mix together your mayo and sriracha. To achieve a fancy shmancy look, scoop the sauce mix into a small ziploc bag and cut the tiniest snip out of a corner of the bag. Once you've plated your salmon, simply squeeze the sauce into a fun pattern onto the salmon. Serve, AKA devour, immediately!

For anyone who wants to know, the side we had was haricot verts, parboiled about five minutes, cooled under ice or in ice water, and then sauteed in sesame oil. Had I sesame seeds or scallions, I would have adorned the beans with them.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Good Stuff.

I'm in a pretty good mood, considering I went to bed at 12:28 and woke up around 5am. My 7am cuppa Earl Grey has faded and I'm sitting here yawning, but still, good mood man. I woke up at 5am thanks to the neighbor idling his motorcycle for FOREVER. After about an hour of just lying there, I finally got up to get some water, noticed Alex had put her lamp back on in her bedroom, and tried turning it off for her all sneaky-like. I turned to go and then:

"I WANT MY LIGHT BACK ONNNNNN" and tears. So I went in, shushed her and got her to come snuggle with us. Oh, her snuggles are so sublime. My hand found Todd's and we laced fingers while Alex burrowed between us, head on my upper arm. I never went back to sleep but instead just laid there with random song lyrics going through my head, enjoying how it felt to be next to Alex.

Finally around 7am I slipped out of bed.

"Where you goin', mama?"

"I'm going to go to the bathroom and then make tea. I'll be back, baby."

"I'm comin' with you."

"Okay, baby."

So then we're in the bathroom and I'm washing my hands and brushing my teeth and she closes the lid to her potty and sits down.

"I had so much fun snuggling with you, mama."

"Oh well thank you, honey, I did too!"

"It's cause I love you so much. mama!"


Friday, November 8, 2013

The Best Version.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, but it really struck me today at lunch when I was lying on the sofa, and Alex came and curled up on me. I've figured out my role as mother in her life.

Well, damn, Jil! you say. Way to finally figure that shit out after three and a half years! Haha, no. I know the job description. I guess what I mean is, what the shape of that role is in Alexandra's life. What I represent. How I differ from Todd, her father. What I am, and what I am not. How to play to my strengths within that role.

I'm the cuddler. I'm the one to watch Tinkerbell movies with all day. I'm the kisser of wounds, the protector when dada's tickle monster chases get too real. What I'm not, is that tickle monster chaser. I've tried it before, and it's not as fun as when Todd does it, because it's just not one of my passions, to chase my kid and scare the crap out of her as she laughs hysterically throughout all of it.

I love listening to them, taking photos of their games, or video if I can catch it in time. It's also not as welcome coming from me as it is Todd. The other day, as she was trotting around the house, I snuck up behind her and tickled her and she nearly jumped out of her skin she was so startled. And then my kid cried. I did that! Yay, tickle monster mommy!

She jumped and cried because it was not expected from me. I usually "attack" her with a kiss or a big hug, sweeping her up off her feet into my arms. Those are mommy attacks. Not tickle monster attacks, no ma'am, not from mommy. It was then that I realized that, after all my halfhearted attempts to be as exuberantly playful with her as Todd, it was for naught. It wasn't only a waste of time and energy, but it was unneeded and unwanted.

And my goodness, what a relief it is to realize and accept that. So what! So I don't have the energy or desire to chase my kid and throw her on the bed 1,000 times in a row! It's ok! Because I have all the energy, desire and time to hold her, to snuggle, to read together, to play arts and crafts together, do our nails together, to curl up at night in bed with her and never let her go (until she kicks me in the sternum).

She gets her ya-yas out with her father. That's his job, at least one of them. He genuinely loves it and he's genuinely good at it. During her second year of life, when horsing around got really fun, I kept trying to measure up to Todd. Kept trying to follow his lead and be as playful and boisterous with her, because look at how much fun they had! I want to have fun with Alex too!

I forgot that I did have fun with Alex, but in my own way, in our own mommy-daughter ways. We have our own games, our own rituals, our own little language. I had kept trying to be everything in her world, but I never needed to do so. It wasn't necessary. What was necessary was, and is, for me to be present and passionate about the roles I do best. That way, I will offer up to my child the best mother she has. The best version of myself.

And that's all I want to be for her.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Review: Alba shampoo and conditioner

All right. When I first bought this, I bought the honeydew "Gloss Boss" version for the amazing smell and hey, who doesn't want to be a Gloss Boss? I liked it well enough so I went out and bought the coconut one, which I have yet to use and which I will likely NOT use, and here's why: It completely weighs my hair down.

I try not to wash my hair everday because the last five inches are super dried out. After the initial transition, the oils in my hair leveled out and it was totally fine for me on the non-wash days.

However. Now I can barely make it 24 hours without my hair looking flat, weighed down and over-oily. And that sucks, because the smell is heavenly, the price is good and the ingredients are pretty awesome. Only two or three chemicals (and while there's no SLS I know at least one of those has to be a detergent of some kind to get the suds) and then just a whole load of natural ingredients.

So, back to the drawing board. Or, to be clear, back to Sprouts where I essentially sit on the floor smelling all the shampoos that don't have sulfates until I find one I like.

Grade: D

Friday, October 25, 2013

Six years. Six years. She got your ring, got you for six years (and counting).

Tomorrow marks our sixth wedding anniversary. There's not a lot to say except my God, it's comfy in here. I love marriage. I love my husband. I love our child, and the life we've built together. Six years. It's such a small number but it feels so good. It feels good because it seems like a nice solid base, a good strong foundation for a marriage that will one day grow into 20, 40, 60 years.

Ours is no different from other successful marriages. There's nothing that makes us OMG BETTER THAN YOU LOSERS. The best thing about us is what's best about all the other successes out there: we're made for each other. I mean... That's it. That's as best as I can describe it.

There's respect and humor, trust and loyalty. We raise our child with the same goals in mind. We like a clean house. We quote The Fifth Element (just one line) and Dracula: Dead and Loving It (all of them) to each other on a daily basis. From top to bottom of the list, there you go.

I hate to say, he completes me, or I complete him, because our relationship would have failed immediately if either of us looked to the other for completion. In order to have a solid relationship, you need to be whole when you start it. That is basically the hallmark of healthy human interaction and intimacy.

But I will say, we complement each other. What was complete before is now enhanced. What was whole before is now perfected. Right off the top of my head, Todd taught me the beauty of apologizing, of accepting it and moving on. I have introduced him to the freeing world of silliness, lightheartedness. Both are important. Both enhanced, put a bit of a shine on the old exterior.

So I guess now is when I say to my husband, sorry for posting another silly photo of you to the internet. I love you. See you in another six, another sixty if we're lucky (or vampires by then).

Friday, October 11, 2013

Miss Independence.

She's all "What? This is my 'Mom got me new boots' outfit. I had to try them on, and obviously they require my dirtbag hipster Seattle outfit in order to adequately judge whether or not they'll work for me. Hey, bro, they totes work."

Heh. Anyways. I'm pretty upset today. I woke up late this morning, because hitting the snooze button on the iPhone under my pillow is becoming easier and easier. My daughter's bedroom light was on even though after she falls asleep we turn it off for her, but that's okay because often she'll wake up in the mornings, turn it on and go doze in bed.

I decided, right before heading out the door to work, to check on her, give her a hug and a kiss so I had some good Alex lovin' to get me through the morning. Except... she wasn't in bed. A little drop of panic mingled in my blood; was she just wandering the dark house alone? Before I decided to tear the house apart in a mad mommy search, I opened the door further. She was curled up in her rocking chair, asleep.

Her bed was soaked. She peed out in the middle of the night, and instead of coming to us for help, she changed her pajamas and underpants and curled up under a clean blanket on her chair. You guys. She's three. She's too young to be taking this sort of shit on all by herself. She didn't come to us. She dealt with it alone, and she didn't even come curl up with us to sleep the rest of the night away. She just... She just hunkered down. Alone. Pee stained. Alone.

My heart could break. While independence is a wonderful thing (um hello, America), it's just too early. It sort of makes my stomach turn, imagining her in the middle of the night, little bags under her sleepy eyes, worry in her heart, as she realized what happened. Was she scared we'd be mad? And when? When did she tuck herself in into her chair? Is there a crick in her neck? What happened? Why didn't she come to us?

I surveyed the scene and the moment my eyes fell on that big pee stain in bed, my heart sank for her. I wanted to cry. Instead I went to her and picked her up, blanket and Ha-Ha and all, held her tight to my body as I carried her to our bedroom. I told Todd what happened, and she opened her eyes and said "Mama my bed, you see my bed?" and then I just wanted to die. I tucked her in, Todd came close to her, and I said "She's too independent, and it worries me."

I worry about zombies and ghosts and shit, so I know that often times Todd and I don't necessarily share the same concerns. But when Todd said "I know, same here," it almost made it worse. I'm so scared that later in life she will take far too much all alone, will stack the worries and responsibilities too high on her shoulders and will never tell a soul about them. Will she distance herself from her spouse? Will she pull away from her family?

She's only three, and already she's taking on the weight of her kid world. I've seen signs of it before, the messy trails of a little lady who craves control over life. The countless outfit changes (see photo above), the water everywhere after trying to get water for herself, or wash herself, or hell if I know what it was. But this morning was a small devastation for me as a mother. As tiring as parenthood can get, when your child pulls away or shrinks inside or refuses to show up on your radar, you are desperate to clean up pee. You beg to wipe away tears. You would sell your soul to comfort.

I wish I would have woken up, mysteriously, whenever it happened, like it does in the movies or on TV. Alex waking up to her crisis, mommy waking up because Mommy Instinct picked up on something. I wish I could have cleaned her up, consoled her, reassured her all was well. I wish she fell asleep between Todd and me, warm and secure, instead of scrunched up on an old rocking chair, cold and lonely, soothing herself, by herself.

I wish, I wish, I wish.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Zucchini Tots

You know it's a good recipe when after taking one bite you pick up your phone and text two friends about it. That's what happened this past Wednesday after I attempted the first batch of these delicious little devils. I have two friends, Kendra and Amber, who have zucchini in their gardens and are always looking for new things to do with the prolific courgette. These are absolutely perfect.

The only issue for some people is that they call for a mini muffin tray. Totally worth the purchase, for this recipe alone. Anyways, I found this on Pinterest but made some tweaks, so here goes.

Zucchini Tots
makes 24 (serving size is three, supposedly)

2 large zucchini
1/2 cup panko
2/3 cup shredded cheddar
1/3 cup finely diced red onion
2 large eggs
Garlic powder, to taste
Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute, to taste (AKA go batshit crazy)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a mini muffin pan with cooking spray, or grease with butter. HAVE FUN WITH IT FOLKS.

Grate your zucchini using the large size on your box grater. This goes so quickly and easily, even for accident prone moi, that I don't recommend lugging out the foot processor and fitting it with the grating tool.

Take a clean, thin but durable dish towel (mine tore) and use it to squeeze out all the moisture from the zucchini. This takes several twists and squeezes.

Add all the ingredients, pell-mell style, in a large bowl and stir to thoroughly mix everything together. Fill each of the muffin cups to the top, pressing down to make sure they hold together when you remove them.

Bake about 18 - 20 minutes, until the tops are golden. Now, the original called for 16-18 but in my notoriously, infamously over-hot oven, it still needed at least 18 minutes. Plus, at the halfway mark I turned the pan around to make sure everything was even.

For those of you 1%ers who have convection ovens then WHATEVER man.

After they're out of the oven, I recommend popping them out and serving soon after, so long as you take care not to burn yourself. They're amazing cold and warm, but nothing beats them when they're hot.

Easy to reheat and to freeze, they are just amazing. I think they're better than tater tots thanks to all the yummy ingredients, but maybe I'm crazy.

Enjoy! They rock with a little bit of ketchup as a side to a delicious grilled steak.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Au Naturel.

Over two months ago, I developed this rough patch of skin along the my orbital bone under my left eye. It was round, rough and redder than the rest of my skin. I thought it was a dry patch, so I upped the moisturizer and forgot about it. A couple of weeks later, it was still there. I swapped moisturizer for hydrocortizone and it seemed to help.

Then we went to San Diego and it really improved, so I was like, this is definitely my skin revolting to the dry nightmare that is desert living. When we returned, my week of bloody noses each morning seemed to reiterate that yes, lack of moisture in the air will ATTACK YOUR BODY.

So early in September, I went to the dermatologist and paid $50 for him to tell me absolutely nothing. They charged me $10 for a culture that came back inconclusive. Sure, I'm complaining about spending money that did me no favors (I'm looking at YOU, "Dr" Matt, San Diegan chiropractor - $60 for putting my feet on an ice pack while you took in another patient), but hey, at least that negative culture means there aren't herds of bacteria camping out on my face.

The dermatologist gave me some ointment, which was really just devil's fire cream since it fried my skin off. SPOILER ALERT, I was reminded of Stannis Baratheon's daughter Shireen who has grayscale on her face. The rash area seemed to spread too, drifting from the orbital bone area to completely and fully under my left eye. If I thought my coworkers were quick to notice the rash, holy shit! did they notice the treatment. I looked like a victim of abuse.

What the hell was this stuff? It wasn't bacterial, the dermatologist had no ideas for me, and aside from the traveling part, and the huge flaky shit going on, it wasn't doing much. Then, I started to consider all the things I put on my face. I'm rather minimal when it comes to makeup; light foundation, eye shadow and sometimes eyeliner, mascara and lip gloss.

I had thrown out my foundation and the sponge applicator and gotten new ones, but maybe whatever was still on my face had compromised the makeup again? And then I realized...

Alexandra. My rotten little kid who LOVES all things stereotypically feminine: my jewelry, my hair stuff, my lip gloss, my... Yep. My makeup. She would take my eyeshadow brushes and "play drums" on the little squares of eye shadows, and once she used her grubby finger nails to dig out two thirds of my facial powder. Granted, I don't really dust my face with that stuff any more, but I definitely do at least once a week or so.

I think that's the culprit, because nothing else makes sense, and nothing else has changed. So I'm going to have to throw out and replace all my makeup (what does she do with those eyeshadow brushes when I'm gone? Does she suck on my eyeliner pencils? WHO KNOWS), and in the meantime, I'm going sans makeup for the week to see if this patch, which is almost all gone after just three days without makeup, will disappear entirely.

OH WOW she finally got to the point of THIS ENTIRE SAGA. Yep, I'm even going to work without makeup. Granted, I'm wearing glasses because to me it feels like a sort of barrier between the world and my bare face. And since I don't drink on weeknights at least my complexion won't be ruddy. And since I'm in admin I'll just be sitting facing a window in a cubicle with my back to the world. WHATEVER

But, can I just stop and say that it's really and truly freeing? Because it is. My morning routine is slashed to nothing, I never feel oily or stifled by a thin layer of crap, so therefore I just feel cleaner, fresher. I wouldn't want to go out to dinner like this or pair it with my killer Jessica Simpson dress I'm dying to wear out, and I know the old ball and chain enjoys a gussied up girl every now and again, but Cover Girl can suck it, because this is truly easy, breezy and beautiful.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Lessons From a Father.

I know there are loads of things Alexandra will pick up from Todd rather than from me. Making primitive fire. Patience. Basic Math. Todd has his strong suits and I have mine, and luckily there are quite a few that we do not share, which helps to expand the spectrum of expertise with which we can help to broaden Alex's mind.

And then there's this.

I know it's blurry, because this crazy exchange between father and daughter was fleeting, and was of course underway while I started clearing dishes from the table on one Sunday. Todd was teaching Alexandra how to...

I don't know? Fend off another species of animal from a fresh kill on the serengeti? Sharpen one's fangs on a lambchop bone? Just, I don't know, being a carnivorous badass?

Whatever it was, she learned it well.  I cannot WAIT for her future boyfriends to read the archives of this blog.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Randoms, I guess.

I have so many smallish things I'd love to talk about so I guess I'll just file them together in a mishmash of a randoms post.

1. Pinterest has been treating me well lately. On Sunday I made two recipes, balsamic pork and the accompanying green beans with olives, sun dried tomatoes and pine nuts that is linked to in that pork recipe. Both were smash hits and also very easy, and I know they will be regular features in my fall recipe portfolio.

Portfolio! Miss Piggy! Lady Holiday!!!

Aside from those, you'll recall my latest food post, the Israeli couscous with chicken and peas. So good! And before that, I made an absolutely delicious chicken yakisoba and a great garlic dijon salmon too. So, yeah. Pinterest has been delighting me lately.

So has Epicurious!

Epicurious is a great app I have on my iPhone, and I've so far gotten two great recipes from it, a grilled butterflied leg of lamb recipe that Todd absolutely knocked it out of the park, and just last night I made chicken with a sauce originally tied to Chilean sea bass. Supremed lemon wedges, kalamatas, rinsed capers, oregano and olive oil on top of pan seared chicken tenders. It was delightful!

P.S. I now know how to supreme a lemon.


Okay, so I can't talk much about it because Todd and I literally JUST started it two nights ago, and are only into the fourth episode. But holy shit! I know we're late to this party considering there are only two episodes left, and I'm scared of the internet after that because I will likely get spoiled on so many things, but I'm glad we finally bit the bullet, took the plunge, got off the dime, etc.

And I'm so impressed by the acting. Bryan Cranston is a genius, and Aaron Paul deserves the role that he got extended. Apparently his character was supposed to get killed off in the first season, but the powers that be loved Paul's job so much that they made him a permanent character. That is a testament to his acting skills.

I have this weird urge to spoil myself on basically EVERYTHING I get into. I did it with the books The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, and a slew of other books too. I do it with all the shows I watch, scouring the internet for tidbits and rumors, or reading the wiki pages of TV series that are no longer playing so I can read ahead and keep myself in the story without having to wait until Alex goes to bed that night to get back into that world. I become obsessed with and starved for new worlds that are created for me and other readers/viewers to enjoy.

But not now. Oh, no. I'm not spoiling myself for this show. And that is very, very weird.

3. Exercise, man. So it is very, very true that it takes just 12 weeks of inactivity to lose all progress in a particular sportt or exercise. I all but quit biking during the summer. After a bike ride in 108 degree heat that had me nearly vomiting after just seven miles (with three left to go), I locked up my dad's bike for the season.

At that time, I had whittled my time down to 48 minutes for a 10.25 mile ride. Once I think I even got it down to 46. Well, for the past two, maybe three weeks I've been biking again and my God man, my time is so sucky. Consistently at 52 minutes and yesterday was even worse, clocking it at 57 minutes. WHAT THE HELL MAN. I was prepared for some set backs but to lose nine minutes on my time? Gross.

I'm glad summer is coming to an end, even though we'll hit 100 at least once more this week (who knows what next week has in store), because I'm ready for more moving around outside. Even the dog walks stopped, thanks to the heat and my plantar fasciitis. Oh, those HIIT workouts? Can't do them if they include any sort of explosive jumping movements. They murdered my feet worse than a weekly run did. So when I do my strength workouts, all movements have to have my feet planted firmly on the floor, save for walking lunges (which I still have to do slowly, carefully).

These past two weeks have seen a return of both bike rides and dog walks, for which I'm grateful. It feels good getting back into my regular routines again. I think it will be good for Alex, too.

4. Alex's potty woes have for the most part abated, I'm delighted to say. Wow. That trip to San Diego really and truly threw one hell of a wrench into things. Her sleep is still a liiiittle wacky (still requiring lights to fall asleep), but she's back in underpants and I'm back to being happy. Just like incorporating dog walks back into our routine, I see things are settling for her, that she's getting back into the swing of things. It's taken over three weeks, but it's happening.

I know everyone is different when it comes to parenting styles but this little glitch in the system proves to me how children thrive on routine, rules and parameters for everyday stuff. That's not to say it isn't good to shake it up every now and then to strengthen them and prepare them for a life that is more chaos than control, but it did show me that a happy kid is one who knows, for the most part, what's coming down the pike for them in their little worlds.

And it shows me that taking a vacation three weeks after potty training is insane.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Swell and the Suck. The Rise and the Fall. The Pee on the Floor.

Ever since California, life has seemed all upside down. The crazy drive, the nonstop touristy schedules, the fact that the second week after we'd returned, I was still thinking we'd just come back that Sunday. Add to those things the fact that Alexandra, who had completely nailed the potty training thing, regressed so far back she's back in pull ups now.

And what is up with that? That simple, drunken, wolfish-grin fact of life that, if a kid is in underpants, she'll pee all over the place, but if she's in pull ups, all that pee and poop go right into the potty? Who wrote that law of nature? Because I'd like to go pour visine in his rum and coke.

Actually that's not true, she's peed in her pull ups maybe three times since she's been in them for a week. BUT STILL. It was getting to the point where she'd have at least one HUGE accident every day. Every goddamn day. And it all started in San Diego, and I really have to blame Todd's uncle's dog, Ivan.

Alexandra was absolutely head over heels for him, and all she wanted to do was play with him outside in the grass. Yeah, grass. I think that had to be a small factor too, getting to romp around with a dog, you know, not on gravel. Her calloused little feet were probably weeping in joy and disbelief. Anyways, sure enough, after twenty minutes of play, out she calls: "I'm peeing!" or just a stated "I peed."

The first time it happened, I went outside while Todd was packing up a cooler for the beach, and there's a big puddle on the sidewalk and she had already moved on to another part of the yard, playing with Ivan and Patton.

"Alex," I said slowly, staring at the puddle, the mockery of all our accomplishments, "Did you go pee out here?" Todd whips around and stares at the puddle and just goes, "Oh, wow." And I guess my favorite part? Was that Alex looked at it too and was just sort of like, oh well, yeah, I guess, whatever. "Yes," she says. And continues to chase Ivan.

So, you know, look. I get it, and I got it then. There was a LOT going on in San Diego. I mean, there was a lot going on on the nearly seven hour drive there. I had wisely put her in a pull up then, but alas, not an overnight pull up, so after a few hours of holding it and holding it and holding it, she finally burst into tears, wailing "I'M PEEING, I'M PEEING." and I tried to reassure her it was okay, until we got to that rest stop, and she was totally soaked through.

There were unusual circumstances, there was that damn awesome dog to play with. I get it. When we all came home though, I stupidly figured life would slip back into routine. Sleeping well, peeing in the toilet, all those awesome things that parents cling to like a person clings to flotsam while drifting out in storm-swelled ocean.

Yeah. None of THAT happened. For whatever reason, that vacation triggered a few things in Alex, namely with sleep and toilet training. I've already gone into detail with the pee thing, but there's also the sleep thing. If you'll recall, we have awesome rolling shutters, or if you want to get real accurate, zombie shutters. They're fantastic. We're talking pitch black environment, when they're shuttered up, day or night. It's miraculous. And Alex has enjoyed them ever since she was six months old.

Well, not anymore. She wants two lights on now, she never wants to go to bed anymore when it's time even though she has always loved her crib, her big girl bed, her bed buddies, the storytime and snuggles, all of it.

Now, if you visit that rolling shutter link, or if you recall the story, I will whip myself into a frenzy convinced that zombies are totes shuffle-stepping down my street, hungry for me and my family's brains. I CAN CONVINCE MYSELF, folks. So please understand when I say that my first thought, indeed my first panicked comment to Todd after that first night of struggling against the darkness and the bedtime, was "Oh my God, she's being haunted by a poltergeist."

Once you've stopped laughing, I'll have you know that quickly the situation cleared itself up, at least as far as we can tell. In San Diego, Alex slept in uncle Steve's office, and while we tried blocking out all the light that could still seep in through the shutters by hanging a sheet over the window, which Steve graciously accepted for eight days, it was still a very light hazy gray every morning. Starting at like, 5am, and I think she got used to it.

After the first night of fighting bedtime, Todd was reading our Dr. Ferber book, and the good doc reminded us both that right around this time, one or two things happen:

One, she becomes very aware that we are letting the good times roll once she's tucked in bed. She hears us in the kitchen and thinks "they're eating ice cream!" or she hears us watching TV and is all "they're watching Curious George!" and I'm like no, Alex, we're eating baked chicken and watching survivor shows. I see enough of that goddamn little monkey during the day.

Two, and this I think is more the thing, is that she's more cognizent of the darker things in the world. She knows now that there are things to be scared of. That the world is scary. Our backyard is full of dead lizards and birds, thanks to the cat, and that's only one source of the macabre that any three year old could stumble across. Scary commercials, a mean kid at the park, people yelling at each other in a store, falling down and seeing blood come out of your knee.

All those things can cause fear and insecurity. Mommy crying over spilled pee on the floor? Sure! I could have totally been an inspiration for a nightmare. I mean, hell. When she's in high school, I'm going to be the inspiration for 75% of them.

It's just funny, because it was so smooth for so long. I was used to constant changes the first 18 months, the growth spurts and developmental milestones. These two took me absolutely by surprise, and wore me out in a way I'd not experienced in many, many moons. We figured it out for now, sure. Todd put a very low-wattage bulb in her little ladybug lamp, and we got a teapot night light to add a second layer of protection against whatever tiny little toddler demons run around that darling headspace of hers. Back to pull ups and stickers and candies. We got this (for now).

But still, having such a relatively easy kid for so long was almost like a setback. I'd just about lost my adaptability, and finally this past weekened we had a night off (it had been so long), thanks to my mom and stepdad and dad who took the reins Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon. I didn't realize how exhausted I was until they left and I just collapsed on the couch and watched three episodes of 30 Rock while Todd was out for the afternoon. Like, I couldn't handle anything of a higher caliber.

And my God. Just... sitting on my couch, no pee spills to clean with a trembling chin, no having to wrangle a wiggly thing into her chair for dinner, none of the bathing routine, the brushing hair, teeth, getting water, fighting-the-bedtime-thing... It was nice. We didn't need a dinner out or a movie out to feel recharged and like ourselves again. And when my girl came back on Sunday, I was ready to tackle life again.

I'm also more aware of how life with children is extremely mercurial, and how foolish I was to rest on my laurels of tackling the first couple of years. There is no game changer in life. Life is the game changer and once more, I am serenely and happily at her mercy. Just... no more pee on the rugs, okay?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Israeli Couscous with Chicken and Peas

So I've been absent from the old bloggy blog for awhile now, thanks to a long overdue and much needed vacation. We stayed with Todd's uncle and aunt in San Diego for just over a week, and my God, it was heaven.

I drank hot tea each morning, whilst wearing a sweater and slippers, but by the afternoons we were enjoying the beach, swimming in the surf one at a time while the other stayed and played with Alex in the sand. We visited Old Town, OB, had a bonfire dinner on Shelter Island, and not once did we get mired in horrible traffic (miraculous, let me tell you).

We went to restaurants, Balboa park, and only had one miserable day thanks to the horrors of a busy day at San Diego Zoo. Remember my plantar fasciitis? Yeah, well, it's going to remember San Diego Zoo for the rest of its life (which I hope isn't long). We sat outside every night, where the temperature + wind chill made it feel more deliciously chilly than anything Tucson has to offer, even in the dead of "winter." Sweaters were worn again, people. In August. It was... perfect.

Anyways, now we're home and sneezing and achy with allergies, and I wake up with bloody noses every morning. Hurray, desert! Well Jil, what the fuck does this have to do with couscous? Well, I'll tell you, faithful reader, I'll tell you. Having enjoyed all that cool weather, it made me crave a cool weather dish. I didn't realize it, either, until I tasted dinner last night.

This meal sounds light and summery thanks to the lemon and the scallions, but the richness of the broth that soaks into the couscous, and the heartiness of the chopped chicken and peas makes it extremely comforting, filling and is somewhat reminiscent of a chicken pot pie, or a chicken noodle soup. Even better, it rained last night, which washed away some of the heat and reminded us, ever so slightly, of those cold nights in San Diego.

Enough already! I got this recipe from A Family Feast but made a few changes here and there.

Israeli Couscous with Chicken and Peas
serves two

5 chicken tenders
EVOO (I feel sort of sleazy typing that out)
Salt and pepper to taste
Garlic powder to taste
2 cup chicken broth (I use no sodium bouillon powder)
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1.5 cup Israeli (also known as pearl) couscous
2 scallions, thinly sliced, both white and green parts
1 cup frozen peas, thawed under hot water
1/2 cup shredded parmesan, plus extra

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Season your chicken with the garlic powder and salt and pepper. Cook chicken until just done, dice it up and add it back to the skillet, setting it aside. I did this about thirty minutes before cooking the rest thanks to Alex refusing to go to bed.

Combine the broth, zest and lemon juice, plus the salt and pepper and set aside. In a large saucepan, heat another drizzle of the olive oil over medium high and add the couscous, toasting lightly for 2-3 as you stir frequently so it won't burn. Next, add the broth combo and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and cover, simmering for about 8-10 minutes until couscous is al dente.

You'll want remaining liquid in the pan, so use that as your guide, too. Now, add your scallions, peas and chicken, plus the 1/2 cup parmesan and stir until it's all mixed up (I have a 311 song stuck in my head now). Sprinkle with extra parmesan, if you so desire (you will) and enjoy!

I do want to add that I usually love to absolutely cover my dish in parmesan. But I will say to those who avoid dairy (I'm looking at you, Kat), the creaminess of the couscous and broth, the richness of everything, is divine. The cheese is just a little bonus, but by no means will this dish lack in flavor if you skip it.

Now, if it were only 65 degrees with a whipsmart wind coming off the sea right outside my window.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Rack of Lamb with Greek Salad

Well hidey-ho! This past Sunday we had a truly delightful family dinner. Alex sat with us and ate what we did aside from the lamb. She's eaten lamb before, I think twice. The first time she cried. The second time was all indifference due to her running around the house like a wild animal, me stopping her mid-sprint, making her take a bite and sending her on her way.

That's also how I'll get her to sign up for cotillion classes!

Anyways, we had what you see in the photo above: delicious, succulent rack of lamb with a wonderfully brirght and summery Greek salad that my darling friend Kendra came up with after tweaking several recipes she'd come across. I too made a few tweaks, depending on what I had available and due to my healthy addiction to garlic.

So here it is folks, a BFF fusion meal.

Rack of Lamb with Greek Salad
serves two because who gives up two of their chops for a couple of friends?  ***

2 large sprigs rosemary, leaves stripped and chopped fine (I snipped them to smithereens in a ramekin)
2 large cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1lb rack of lamb, some fat trimmed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cucumber, sliced and diced (I diced the larger slices into nine pieces, for reference)
12oz +/- cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 tbsp fresh chives, snipped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dill
Drizzle olive oil
Drizzle pinot grigio vinegar
1/2 cup feta crumbles
2 pieces naan flatbread (optional)

Set the oven to 375. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat and while it warms up, mix your rosemary, garlic and olive oil, muddling them in that selfsame ramekin used for the rosemary. Using your hands, rub the mixture into the lamb. Nay, massage it! Really let it know that you care but draw the line at buying it flowers. You don't want it thinking you're already picking out china patterns, do you?

Add salt and pepper.
When the skillet is nice and hot, toss in your lamb and sear it on all sides. Then pop it in the oven and set your timer for 15 minutes.

Wait, would you send the flowers to the lamb or to the herb mixture? I don't know, man. Ask Dear Abby. Or Julia Child.

So, while your lamb cooks, and to keep you from excitedly pacing around your kitchen wiping anticipatory drool off your chin (I did that anyway), assemble your salad. Mix everything together in a big bowl, save for the feta. Put the bowl in the fridge to keep cool, and I don't know, man, set the table or yell at your kids or something. Anything to keep yourself distracted.

Here, this will distract you. Why on earth in the first Harry Potter movie does Hagrid go all "That is VERY important, Harry, you STICK TO YOUR TICKET." Like, why Hagrid? Nobody collects the tickets at platform 9 3/4. Not that I recall. I've read the books about five times through, Hagrid. I mean, if you can figure out how to walk though a damn wall, then I think that trumps holding a damn ticket. Amiright?

After the timer goes off, remove your lamb and, sigh of all sighs, let it rest at least five minutes and if you're really brave, about ten. This is important, as the meat is still cooking and there's the whole thing of letting the juices, that had accumulated in the center, escape onto your cutting board.

Remove your salad from the fridge and add your feta, tossing to evenly distribute. Plate the salad and carve the lamb. As that is happening, quickly warm up your flatbread in the microwave and cover with another plate to keep warm.

And... you're done. YOU GET TO EAT THE LAMB.

If you don't, I will.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

My Ghosts in this Town.

For fifteen years of my life, I grew up in Nashville, TN. I loved it, and when it was time to pack everything up and move to Tucson for college, I was very sad. It took a long period of adjustment, and some flunking out of stuff, but eventually the growing (moving?) pains subsided and I found myself enamoured of my new home.

I've now lived here for as long as I've lived in Nashville, but there is a mighty big difference; I really only explored Nashville for, say, my high school career. Cars, downtown streets, concerts, jumping into a lazy river off an old rope swing. So, you know, four years at the max. But here... Here I see ghosts of myself.

I moved here at 18, got married at 27, had a kid at 30, and am currently feasting on my slice of The American Dream. That's a lot of history compared to my life in Nashvegas. For example, when I go on my bike rides as my 33 year old self, I pass by the apartment building I lived in with my dad for the first few years of my life here in Tucson. I ride half of the same route I'd take to go buy CDs at Zia Records.

I drive downtown to take my child to the children's museum and drive by the nightclubs I used to dance in until 2am. I work in a building that is across the street from the high rise in which I did temp work, wondering if I would ever land a job here after quitting my previous job in order to take a month-long honeymoon.

There's a scene in one of the world's best movies ever, A Muppet Christmas Carol, in which old Ebenezer Scrooge watches shadows of his younger self move about and study in his old schoolhouse. One comes to life only to fade out as an older version of himself comes into the picture, to fade out again, etc.

I feel that way a lot, biking through these streets, or sitting in traffic and seeing a house I partied at before a bunch of punk wannabes crashed it and ruined everything, as they are wont to do. That's the crazy part, I think. Seeing houses of some semblence of importance to my younger self, my 22 year old self, that are no longer anything in my life as a 30 something wife and mother.

I like it. I can see the appeal now for people who want to, and plan on, living in the same city or town their whole lives. Tucson feels rich with history, my history, and as I pass by my old haunts it's like waving at my past self. Here is the corner of 4th Avenue and 5th Street where I met the love of my life, father of my child(ren - one day). I used to live in that duplex where our friend Pete threw up on a cactus after too many drinks on his birthday. The place on the U of A campus where I used to romp with my old dog, Beauregard. There, on that corner, used to be the laundromat where I once helped an intoxicated homeless person shave his face, as he was too drunk to do it himself.

There's a saying that if you shiver or something, someone is walking over your grave. Now, along those lines but way less morbid, I wonder if I ever had a shiver, or felt someone was looking at me as I sauntered down Congress Street, walking my dog and feeling good in the skin of a 25 year old. Maybe I looked back over my shoulder, glimpsing for a moment a silvery SUV with a slightly wistful mom gazing at me, a shadow of a smile on her face, a fleeting moment of connection between past, present, and future.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Workout Monday!

Poor Wednesday, it got robbed of its fitness posts by other days of the weeks. It's a full on HIIT pillaging!

I literally just did this and am still shaky and typing is quite difficult.

50 seconds on, 10 seconds rest.

1 Plank and walk out. Get in plank position with your feet on an exercise ball. Pull ball towards body using legs. 
2 Goblet squats
3 Pushups
4 Burpees
5 Ball crunches
6 Tricep dips
7 Supermans
8 Jumping Lunges
9 Plank
10 Bicep curls
11 Ball crunches
12 Supermans


Friday, August 2, 2013

Spring Rolls Sprung Up All In Here

So yesterday I had to go get some pad thai sauce at the store, and while there in the Asian section (thanks, Fry's), my eye caught a package of spring roll skins. I had never before made spring rolls and was instantly intrigued. Since Alex saw them too and decided to put one in the basket, I was like fuck it:

Now, if you ask my bestie Kendra, last night you would have thought that I was attempting something truly difficult like performing open heart surgery or beating a level of Candy Crush, I texted her for help so many times.

Turns out though, after a quick hop onto You Tube for a tutorial on softening and folding said spring roll skins, it is so ridiculously easy that I think I owe Kendra another apology. SORRY KENDRA. I didn't even buy any extra ingredients for the filling, as I had everything already in my fridge and freezer.

So here is my recipe, but I'm going to make more tonight and want to really explore all the tasty alternatives. Seriously though, you can stuff these puppies with anything and still enjoy them. PLUS there are like six skins to a 200 calorie serving, so an appetizer of two rolls is like, chump change, man. CHUMP CHANGE.

Now, I was frazzled last night because it was something I'd not done before, and I was sort of scattered in my food prep. I hope this doesn't come through in how I list my ingredients (I like to list them in order of appearance like fancy smart people cookbooks do), but if it does, I apologize.

Mahi Mahi Spring Rolls
makes four rolls

1 cup (give or take) of finely chopped cabbage
2 scallions sliced, both white and green parts
4 large sprigs cilantro
1 4oz. portion of mahi mahi. I get mine frozen and individually wrapped at Costco.
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
4 spring roll skins
peanut sauce (you can make your own or mince down the lazy man trail like I did and use peanut satay sauce that you've had in your pantry for about a year because you made satays like just that once and decided "I will make these forever" and then promptly forget about)

Okay, SO. Mix up your cabbage and scallions and set aside in a small bowl. Prepare your work station with a large cutting board. I can't believe I made that a step. Sorry. What's wrong with me?

In a small skillet over medium high heat, add some oil and once it's heated through, add your fish. Once you flip it over, add the hoisin sauce for flavor. Why else would I add some goddamn sauce, Jil? For its accounting skills? You're right, I apologize. I am apparently in an extremely self-deprecating mood today. I should start telling French jokes next!

Remove the fish and cut it into four strips, lengthwise. Set aside.

Fill a large skillet (or something similarly shaped) with hot water and one at a time, slide the spring roll skins in and rotate until they soften. The first one I let linger awhile and it was extremely gooey and difficult to work with. So you know, stop before that point. I am so helpful!
Now, transfer the skin to the cutting board, smooth side down, and put a small heap of cabbage/scallion mix towards the bottom. Top with a slice of the fish and a sprig of cilantro, and fold the bottom part of the skin up and over the filling. Next, fold the sides over and then simply roll the stuff upwards.

This guy was a big help:

And then, presto! That's all! Finish up with the last three and then chill before serving. Dunk those bad boys in your sauce and devour while standing around in the kitchen while you wait for your skillet to heat up in order to cook pad thai. You didn't buy that sauce packet for nothing!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tuesday workout!

So, I know that you can't have every piece of workout equipment out there. Stability balls, Bosu balls, exercise balls (which may or may not be the same as a stability ball, depending on who you're talking to or how much you've had to drink), medicine balls...


I haven't even gotten to the yoga mats, body bars, kettlebells, dumbells, barbells, ankle weights, wrist weights, dancer bars, swimsuits, swim caps, ear plugs, bike helmets, bike gloves, sports bras or castanets.

I found this workout ages ago in Women's Health, and when I find a workout I like, I carefully tear it out of the magazine and stash it in a huge manila envelope called PUPS'S WORKOUTS. I have only done this particular workout once before, so I was excited to adapt it to the HIIT formula of 50 seconds on, 10 seconds rest, repeat 4 workouts three times. 12 minutes of heaven or hell (depending on who you're talking to or how much you've had to drink).

It does require a relatively specific piece of equipment though: a medicine ball. And that's not something that I actually own. However, I am lucky enough to have a kung fu master as a husband, and in their tech classes (2 hours of sweat and occasional blood), they use what Todd calls pearls.

It's essentially a medicine ball, but one that is painstakingly, devotedly made over a long period of time. It takes countless strips of newspaper taped over like, a wad of masking tape or something similar, and over it goes those newspaper strips, until what started off smaller than an apple is now the size of a volley ball. OR HEY. The size of a medicine ball!

After the newspaper, Todd thoroughly goes over with countless strips of duct tape. And once Sifu Todd has deemed it worthy, it's finished. So you know, I used that.


Medicine Ball Workout

50 seconds each move, 10 second rest. Repeat the set of four moves three times, only ten seconds rest between sets. Total time: 12 minutes (well, 11:50 but you'll definitely use those last ten seconds to stand there panting between gulps of water).

1. Squat and Throw

Stand with feet shoulder width apart, medicine ball (PEARL) chest height. In one motion, squat down with your hooker butt out so your knees don't pass your toes, and slam the ball down hard on the floor in front of your toes. Catch the ball and stand up. Make sure to engage your core and keep your chest out. Repeat

(I am not sure how bouncy legit medicine balls are so adjust the strength of your throw depending on that)

2. Jackknife

Lie on your back, legs straight and feet together, holding the ball with straight arms over your head. You are one with the floor. You are a line! You are one with the ball! It one fluid motion, engage your core and bring your left foot straight up in the air, and bring the ball, arms straight, to touch your toe. Return to lying down, but make sure not to slam the ball on the ground above your head. You want to use muscles, not momentum. Repeat with right leg.

You could do either 25 seconds left leg, 25 seconds right leg, or just switch back and forth.

3. I Don't Even Know What To Call It

Stand with feet together, ball held at chest height. Bend your left leg and bring your knee in towards your chest. In one movement, extend your left leg out and slightly to the left while you extend the ball with straight arms forward and slightly to the right. If your balance is as appalling as mine, don't go to the side as much and just focus on going back with the leg, forward with the ball. Do the left leg for 25 seconds and switch to the right.

This exercise is far easier if you keep your core engaged.

4. Lunge and Toss

Stand with the ball at chest height. Drop down into a lunge while simultaneously tossing the ball lightly into the air. Once you're lowered into your lunge, catch the ball. Use your abs to stabilize yourself and squeeze your glutes down into that lunge to steady your body for the impact of catching the ball. Stand back up and repeat on the same leg. Do one leg 25 seconds and then switch.

I loved this workout. It was simple and easy to memorize so I wasn't having to check back with my paper. It was fun and enough of a challenge to sweat, but not so complex in movement that my form suffered. I loved how quick and easily the transition between moves was. Plus there is something cathartic about slamming a big heavy object onto a concrete floor.

If you don't have a medicine ball, then try anything that can bounce. Or just use a ten pound weight and instead of slamming it on the floor or tossing it into the air, mimic the movements without the weight leaving your grasp.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Home Sweet Hey-oh!!

So many moons ago, perhaps 12 of them or more, I posted how we finally got off our asses and did some improvements to our home. Its original title was rental house, and once we leave it will revert to that status, so we had been reluctant to spend a lot of money on a place that was, in the grand scheme of things, just a temporary abode.

This November we will have lived in this place for three years. That's nothing to shake a stick at, though I know it's still just a blip of time when you consider the long run. Aside from the horrible kitchen (I hate you, cabinets. I loathe you, receded grout), and the majorly outdated bathroom, and the fact that we could seriously benefit from a third bedroom and second bathroom, it's a great house. It charms the pants off of people. If Todd were still single it would be one hell of a wingman. Is that inappropriate? I am not sure, I've not even had all my iced tea this morning.

Back to the house! It's a charmer. It's a cutie patootie. We love our neighborhood and neighbors, we love the backyard and its super rad fireplace. But we were facing a tough decision coming down the pike within the next six months or so: what to do when we have baby number two? I'm not getting any younger and Todd's gray hairs are multiplying as if I had something to do with it. It's time to expand the family. But... Two bedrooms? ONE bathroom? Jesus, take the wheel.

I know, I know, back in the days of yore, people made families consisting of ten children in a no bedroom house with dirt floors and a cow in the family room. But whatever. We do  have another rental not too far from here, with great tenants that we'd hate to displace, but with that third bedroom, that second bathroom, that we so badly desire. Eventually we just decided we'd move in there.

But, and wow it's a big 'but' (and I cannot lie!)... It's the ugliest house on the street, and the street is ugly too. Not only that, but Todd would have to convert it from swamp cooling to A/C. He'd have to gut one of the bathrooms. We'd have to completely gut and remodel the kitchen. We'd have to convert the garage into a family room/playroom/office for Todd. The backyard is a giant dirt field. There is a decrepit old cedar tree in front and since I am a country girl from Nashville, I know those things attract ticks. A nasty old chain link fence needs ripping out in the front. Did I mention we'd have to convert the garage into a family room/playroom/office for Todd?!

It was a lot, and we were looking at a bill of several thousand dollars, all for an ugly house neither of us wanted to live in. Let me try and shed a little light on just how ugly it is: when Todd took us to go take a look at it, I involuntarily, and out of nowhere, burst into tears. Yep! Spontaneous despair. It's that bad.

So naturally, we were kind of stressing out about it. True, there were going to be some good things about it. Extra bathroom, mainly. We had some cool ideas for the backyard, as well. I'd finally have enough room to get a desk of my own, and a sewing machine, and I was going to Laura Ingalls Wilder the fuck out of stuff.

Then, the other night, just last week, we were discussing it. Now, my disdain for the place was obvious but Todd finally let it all out that he too was pretty down in the dumps about leaving our cutie patootie home for this other shit shack. We both wished we could figure out a way to just stay in our place until the opportunity presented itself to buy another property in the area of town we truly wanted to live in. Alex's bedroom was just so small though; there'd be no way to fit a crib in there with her toys, and I didn't want to compromise so much of her comfort.

And then it hit me. Switch bedrooms! All we have in our bedroom are a king bed, two dressers and two nightstands. We have a cool chair in there that I bought in New Orleans but I quickly assessed where we could put that. I mentally decorated Alex's room with our stuff, and arranged hers and Mystery Baby's stuff in our bedroom and it worked, perfectly. I told Todd and the relief we both felt was palpable.

I'm just so happy to stay in our home. We've shaken out all the growing pains that comes from adjusting to a new home and though it's small and will feel smaller still when we are a family of four, it's ours and we love it. Someday quite soon we'll pack up and say goodbye to our little house, but I'm so happy to know that we will just be moving once, and not making a years-long pit stop at the shit shack.